When the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board began its budget deliberations several weeks ago, it was no secret it faced a tough task. After all, the marching orders given by Education Minister Ramona Jennex were pretty blunt - find a way to cover a $6.5-million shortfall without impacting the quality of education the children of northern Nova Scotia receive.
The board took another step toward implementing its 2012-13 budget earlier this week when it announced its staffing complement. The end result is there will be 127 fewer full-time equivalent positions in the board, including 54.8 teaching positions, 48.7 support staff positions, 21.2 library positions, 20.5 property services and transportation staff and three non-union staff.
These suggestions are subject to the budget being passed in June.
In making the announcement, board chairwoman Trudy Thompson said her organization is being forced to reset the education system to a level much lower than what parents expect and what students deserve.
Thompson has a point. The school board has made significant gains in recent years at enhancing student achievement and it has done an admirable job building on provincial initiatives to bring about better results among younger learners, especially those at risk of falling through the cracks or being left behind by the education system.
Still, the province is dealing with a growing debt and must bring all expenses, including education, under control. Within eight years we will have the same number of students in this province as we did in 1910. Of course cuts are going to happen.
When you clear the clutter and the back and forth between the board and government, it's still hard to see how cutting that many teaching and support positions is not going to hurt those who need help most.
At the end of the day, history will determine who is right, but we can't lose sight of the educational needs of our children and delivering those services in the most efficient and effective manner without breaking the bank. Sounds like a tall order indeed.